I noticed disturbing signs. Then I’d look for positive signs to dispute those disturbing ones.
Denial is an exquisite luxury.
My husband Charles had an exceptional sense of direction. When we visited NYC and emerged from some subway station, he, unlike me, was oriented to location. I had to look for landmarks.
A few years after we’d moved from Nashville to Manhattan where Charles worked at NYU School of Medicine, he began to ask if we turned right or left when we climbed subway stairs and arrived at street level.
And, then, the notes—notes that were reminders of what he needed to do each day. He’d sit in front of the computer with small pieces of paper on which he’d scribble and later place, with his wallet and keys, in a bowl near the entrance foyer of our apartment.
I’d listen to his conversations with whatever resident he was scheduled to work with the next morning. This was reassuring. He could talk anesthesia enthusiastically and without hesitation.
When Charles appeared more tired than usual, I asked if he felt all right. Usually, he’d say, “On my feet most of the day.” Until the evening he answered, “If you could see inside my head. It’s as if I’m smoking weed all the time.”
“You used to like that feeling,” I said, waiting for him to elaborate.
“I did when it was a choice.”
One night I said, “Why don’t you retire?”
“Where would we go. You love this city and if I weren’t working, we’d have to move.”
“I love you more than I love any city. We could move back to Baltimore.”
I’m reminded of Charles’ illness, his intensifying confusion, his asking me if he had an appointment to see one of his many physicians and then asking this again 15 minutes later. I’m reminded each time I see an article about Joe Biden’s latest “gaffe” or when I watch a video montage of his cognitive lapses.
I despise Biden’s cruel history, present, and pledges to the future. Among many of his most egregious are corporate servitude, a commitment to for-profit healthcare and Big Pharma, support for endless wars and regime change, allegiance to Zionism, betrayal of working people and the poor, spearheading incarceration legislation that has devasted Black communities, and a cavalier attitude towards a Green New Deal.
I take no pleasure though in what most certainly is Biden’s Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. It’s not funny. It’s terrifying. I know. I’ve lived it. I’ve lived it with Charles—whose fogginess and cognitive impairment eventually were diagnosed as Parkinsonism. He died before he reached what some Parkinson’s sufferers experience, reactive behaviors like anger and aggression. “Aggressive behavior is, unfortunately, a common consequence of dementia… One of the few long-term studies (10 years) found that up to 96% of patients with dementia demonstrated aggressive behavior …”
When I suggested retirement to Charles, it wasn’t that I was worried only about him. I also was concerned for his patients. Delivery of anesthesia is serious—as serious as the surgical procedure for which it’s needed.
Jill Biden is aware of her husband’s condition. If Trump is brutalizing Joe Biden now, he will be even more vicious during a campaign and particularly in a debate.
Jill Biden must be merciful—in shielding this man she loves as well as protecting the people from him.
Again, this is not funny. It’s terrifying.
Missy Comley Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.